NEW YORK – More than 250 Greek-American young professionals heeded the calls of their friends who wanted to share their enthusiasm for the work of The Hellenic Initiative (THI) promoting Greek recovery at its New Leaders Kickoff Cocktail Party in the beautifully restored Pier A Harbor House restaurant and event complex.
Apropos of the inspiring view of the Statue of Liberty in Lower Manhattan, THI Board member George Stamas told the guests who delighted in the venue and new friends and whose donations will benefit Prolepsis/Diatrofi a fund that feeds hungry schoolchildren in Greece, that “the people in this room partying are the lucky ones because our ancestors” who came to America were the luckiest of their generation. We can bring that same enthusiasm to helping those in Greece not as priviledged as us.”
Similar events are being planned across the country in addition to more in New York.
Stamas introduced New Leaders spokesman Nicholas Lazares, Jr. a fourth-generation Greek-American banker from Boston. He thanked the guests for their presence and donations. The $16,000 they raised will be matched by THI and doubled again to a $60,000 total by another fund in Greece.
Asked how they achieved such a success in their first attempt, Lazares said. “We have an unbelievable network of people in the New Leaders Group and in THI. We simply connected through the network and got 250 people here.”
Stamos made a brief presentation about THI. “We are an umbrella for many terrific things that are happening in Greece with Greek-Americans, Greek-Canadians, and others. Our chapter in Australia is spectacular,” Stamas said.
The organization whose Chairman is industrialist Andrew Liveris, has three fundamental pillars: Supporting crisis relief efforts to address real human suffering today, fostering a culture of entrepreneurship to develop a new generation of business leaders, and investing in small and medium sized businesses – the lifeblood of the Greek economy.”
Board members are pleased with THI’s progress.
“If you see the faces of the entrepreneurs we have funded, the faces of the bureaucracy there that can’t believe what we accomplished you will say ‘darn it we can really do it,” Stamas told THI, filled with reasons to believe of Hellenes around the world “Maybe for the first time we are coming together.”
SUPPORTING GREECE’S ENTREPRENEURS
The community’s young professionals seem especially excited about helping young entrepreneurs in Greece. THI Board members are planning to participate in the June 28 THI Venture Fair which connects entrepreneurs to investors.
“We will go support young people who are trying to make it happen in business…our Board members are people who want to make the world a better place through business and other activities… they want to give young Greeks the same opportunities we have here,” Lazares said.
He explained that the New Leaders began about five months ago with meetings in New York that addressed how to raise awareness about the work of TNH and get youth across the country involved. After many responses to email blasts to people “we were able to whittle it down to the people who cared very much and had a vision and a drive to make things happen and there is now a board of about 20 people from across the US and from Greece,” he said.
Stamas added that the New Leaders were formed when “Our 45 directors from around the world” who launched THI’s charity and job creation efforts understood that “to sustain it, there is only one way. We have the find the best and the brightest of the young leaders who can carry this on for generations.”
Christina Costas heard about the event whose coordinators included THI Executive Director Mark Arey, Development Consultant Peter Poulos and Program Coordinator James Canale THI through a friend and looked forward to learning more. “It’s such an amazing event. I love the fact that we are giving back to Greece and we can see how we are doing it,” she said.
Drake Behrakis, whose father, industrialist and philanthropist George Behrakis is a Board member, told TNH “It’s an absolutely phenomenal organization and I am happy to be here to support a great cause and it’s important to build a strong community amongst the youth.” He believes the endeavor will generate benefits in Greece and the US.
Behrakis told TNH, “It’s about building a grass-roots organization” to ground THI’s mission, which Andrew Veniopoulos told TNH “It’s important to get Greek-Americans who are interested in doing good to be committed at an early age. “We all have affection for and ties with Greece and we want to see Greece get better and this is a great way – even on a small scale – to try and make a difference.”
THN learned of a THI success story from attorney Alex Constantopes. He learned about the event from a young Greek whose career took a spectacular leap after THI-sponsored mentorship, and who is paying it forward by mentoring others.